Hey fam! Ever heard of the temples protecting Jeonju? Yep, there are temples at every direction of the old Jeonju Fortress to shield Jeonju. They’re collectively known as the ‘Four Great Temples’ or ‘Sagosa’ (사고사찰/四古寺刹). Legend has it, after the Japanese invasions, they were established with a firm belief to safeguard Jeonju, the ancestral home of the Joseon Dynasty. Cool, right?
And guess what? The city of Jeonju is the ONLY place in the entire country with this unique temple layout! So, tag along with me as I share my personal journey through these iconic spots!
Location: Jeollabuk-do, Jeonju-si, Wansan-gu, Naksujeong 2-gil 103-100
“Guardian of Jeonju’s East: Donggosa”
Our first pit stop? The ‘Donggosa’ temple, guarding the east. It’s tucked away behind the famous Jeonju Hanok Village, on Seungamsan Mountain. If you’re driving, heads up! The road is narrow, perfect for a single car, so caution is key.
The journey to Donggosa was straight-up picturesque. Birds chirping, towering bamboo trees, and that gentle breeze – oh, pure perfection! I totally recommend this path for a serene walk.
“Donggosa: A Tale of Rich History”
So here’s a tidbit: Donggosa was founded in the 2nd year of Silla Heongang’s reign (876) by the monk Doseon. Though it disappeared during the Japanese invasions, it got rebuilt during King Heonjong’s time. Its resilient spirit? Evident and captivating.
The main hall, Daeungjeon, which was reconstructed in 1946, lines up with several other temple buildings.
Unfortunately, due to the risk of landslides after a heavy downpour, I couldn’t go up higher. But the comforting sight of the Mireuk Buddha looking down brought immense peace.
The view from Seungamsan? Jaw-dropping! ️ Gazing at Jeonju from atop, it felt as if all my stress just melted away.
Legend has it, in 935, when Silla’s King Gyeongsun surrendered to Goryeo’s King Taejo, the second prince, overwhelmed with grief over losing his nation, carved the images of his father, the Crown Prince Ma, and three others onto wood and enshrined them at Donggosa.
As I wrapped up my visit to Donggosa, the guardian of Jeonju’s east, I slowly descended the mountain, reminiscing the mesmerizing experience.
Location: Jeollabuk-do, Jeonju-si, Deokjin-gu, Jeongyeolip-ro 1010-90
“Perched on Hwangbangsan: Seogosa, The Guardian of Jeonju’s West!”
Next up on our list? The ‘Seogosa’ temple, which keeps watch over the city’s west side. Nestled on Hwangbangsan Mountain near Jeonju’s Innovation City, the origins of Seogosa are a bit of a mystery, as there aren’t any records on its establishment.
But, I did come across an interesting tale: King Gyeon Hwon of Later Baekje had built the temple to pray for the nation’s prosperity and the people’s wellbeing. Love a bit of history!
From Seogosa’s vantage point, the view of Jeonju was as mesmerizing as the one from Donggosa. The temple felt like a vigilant sentinel overseeing the Innovation City from Hwangbangsan Mountain.
Lying at the foot of the mountain, Seogosa’s Nahanjeon hall was a harmonious blend with the lush green surroundings, evoking an ethereal vibe. Within Nahanjeon, they say there’s a Nahansang statue sculpted by the monks Seongsim, Cheweol, and Minsung in 1695.
Location: Jeollabuk-do, Jeonju-si, Wansan-gu, Namgosanseong 1-gil 53-88
Venturing next to Jeonju Namgosa, a steep climb greeted me, leading to the west gate, Seomunji, of Namgosanseong Fortress. If you’re driving, brace yourself for some pretty challenging roads!
I won’t lie – being a newbie at driving, those sharp inclines were intimidating! I parked halfway and hiked the rest of the way up. The temple’s entrance, adorned with images of Inwang and Sacheonwang, exuded such a powerful aura that I felt like I shouldn’t make eye contact!
“Guardian of Jeonju’s South: Namgosa”
Centered around the grand Daeungjeon Hall, the temple complex spread out majestically. Though Namgosa is believed to be about 100 years old, the main hall was rebuilt in 1979. As I strolled around, I could feel the magnificence of its history coursing through my veins.
The main hall of Namgosa, standing proudly in front of Daewoongjeon, is said to be built on the grounds of an old Namgosa temple pavilion. Historically significant, this site dates back to 668 AD, when it was established by the monk Myeongdeok during King Munmu of Silla’s reign. Today, it stands as Jeollabuk-do’s monument no. 72, bearing testimony to its ancient heritage.
“Samseonggak: The Fusion of Indigenous Beliefs and Buddhism”
Deep within Namgosa lies the mysterious Samseonggak – a Buddhist architectural wonder dedicated to the trio of Mountain God, Chilseong, and Dokseong. This unique pavilion is where Korea’s indigenous shamanistic beliefs seamlessly intertwine with Buddhism. Although I couldn’t peek inside, the aura it emitted was undeniable.
Have you heard about the “Namgomojong,” one of Jeonju’s 10 scenic beauties? The evening bell tolls from Namgosa echo majestically throughout Jeonju Fortress, announcing the evening. I’ve been told that the splendor of Namgosa amidst autumn’s full bloom is unparalleled. Eagerly awaiting my next visit during that enchanting season!
Jinbuksa (Formerly known as Bukgosa or North Temple)
Location: Jeollabuk-do, Jeonju-si, Deokjin-gu, Jeonjucheonseo-ro 403-5
“Jinbuksa: Nestled on Hoamsan Mountain”
Our final destination was Jinbuksa, once known as Bukgosa, which stands guard to the north. Located on the scenic Hoamsan (part of Hwasan Park), it’s an ideal blend of spiritual journey and nature walk.
Built along the slopes of Hoamsan, Jinbuksa is home to the famed Mireukjeon, which houses the North-facing Buddha amidst its four stone statues.
If you venture behind Jinbuksa to the mountain shrine, you’ll be rewarded with a panoramic view of Jeonju’s riverside. As we conclude our journey through Jeonju’s Four Great Temples (Sagosa/사고사찰), I urge you to explore these strongholds on a clear day, each brimming with history and unmatched serenity!
Donggosa: Jeollabuk-do, Jeonju-si, Wansan-gu, Naksujeong 2-gil 103-100
Seogosa: Jeollabuk-do, Jeonju-si, Deokjin-gu, Jeongyeolip-ro 1010-90
Namgosa: Jeollabuk-do, Jeonju-si, Wansan-gu, Namgosanseong 1-gil 53-88
Jinbuksa: Jeollabuk-do, Jeonju-si, Deokjin-gu, Jeonjucheonseo-ro 403-5
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